Lionel presided over the museum opening as a king does over his court. It was, after all, a Luthorcorp sponsored exhibit and a Luthorcorp sponsored event. He had found, transported, and fostered interest in the collection of ancient swords. He had final say over the list of invitees fortunate enough to be present at the initial showcase. He even had his own security people at the doors checking the guests. He also greeted each of the guests as they arrived, networking and accepting due praise for the effort put into the opening.
The 'fashionably late' crowd was just beginning to trickle in when he caught the first whisper that his son was planning some form of corporate sabotage for the evening. "Have you seen Lex yet?" a young man that Lionel could identify only as the Exeter Financial heir asked his date, the daughter of Brighton Electrical's CEO.
The unnatural blonde girl craned her neck, but was unsuccessful in locating Lex, whom Lionel knew had not yet arrived. "No, why?" she asked.
The boy's voice lowered, and Lionel was only barely able to make out the words, "Just keep an eye out for him. He's supposed to make a splash tonight."
Lionel pressed his lips together, and made his way to the door where he told his men to pull Lex aside when he got there and inform Lionel of his arrival. He had worked too hard for tonight for his ingrate son to upset the three deals he had riding on it. He would also have to figure out who had leaked the information that tonight wasn't just about antique weapons, though it was altogether possible Lex was just playing a hunch.
He returned to his meet and greet routine until Eduardo, his chief of security, drew up alongside him and spoke in a low voice, "The younger Mr. Luthor is here."
Lionel made his excuses and pulled away from the President of the First Metropolitan Bank and his wife. Returning with Eduardo to the entrance, he found Lex looking irritated at being kept from entering. The farmboy, Clark Kent, was beside him, trying to calm him down.
Any progress Kent might have made was lost as Lex caught sight of Lionel and his eyes narrowed and his back stiffened. "Dad. I was invited. Why am I being held at the door?"
Lionel studied his son, taking in the well tailored suit and the equally fine one being worn by Kent. Both were presentable for the black tie affair, so that wasn't his rebellion of the evening. Kent's hair had even been tamed to something resembling order. Lex was both sober and indignant at being refused entrance, almost as if he were innocent of any malevolent plans. Lionel would not be so easily fooled. "Did you search them?" he asked Eduardo.
One of the other security men answered, "They're clean, sir. No wiretaps, cameras, bugs, or other surveillance equipment. Neither do they have weapons, chemicals, drugs, or incindiary devices."
For a moment, Lex and Kent both stared at the man in disbelief, then Lex turned the expression on Lionel. "What did you think I was up to?" Lionel was fairly certain the shock was genuine.
So whatever 'splash' the boy was planning, it wouldn't involve physical casualties, either of the human or priceless antique varieties. More surprising, he wasn't preparing for an information siege either. "I don't know, Lex," Lionel said, as if not being completely apprised of Lex's plot wasn't anything to be concerned about. In the time between when he'd first heard the rumor and when Lex had shown up, he'd heard several more queries about Lex's whereabouts. Lionel's guests had clearly been primed for some sort of stunt and he was not going to just blithely allow the boy in to perform it. "You tell me what you're up to or you can just turn around and go back to your penthouse."
Lex's eyes flashed in anger, though whether that was at the high-handed treatment or in response to his plans being thwarted, Lionel couldn't tell. Kent put a hand on Lex's arm and spoke his name softly in warning. Lex relaxed marginally, but he continued to glare at Lionel. "You can't just send me away."
"Watch me," Lionel challenged. "You are not setting foot inside the museum until I know why everyone in there is waiting with baited breath for you to arrive."
Lex blinked in obvious surprise. He could be faking it, but Lionel didn't think he was. The trepidation in his eyes as he looked toward the door was also unlikely to be feigned, if for no other reason than because Lex knew better than to voluntarily show weakness. "Who? Who was asking about me?"
It was looking more and more likely that whatever was going on was a plot against Lex rather than a plot devised by him. "The Exeter boy," Lionel offered first.
"Scott," Lex growled, obviously knowing the heir better than Lionel did. Neither did he seem at all surprised by the name.
"George Lieverhotz's son."
"Bradley," Lex supplied that first name as well, apparently not liking that boy any more than Scott Exeter. And again, he reacted almost as though he expected it.
That one did seem to surprise Lex. "George Kensington?" Regardless of whether or not Lex had anticipated Kensington's involvement, Lionel was certain his son had a good idea of what was going on, even if he wasn't behind the situation that had developed. "Lex, tell me what's happening."
Lex looked . . . skittish almost. Like he wanted to flee but was too much a Luthor to just leave the field of battle. He made an effort to composing his expression to one of confident arrogance as he met Lionel's gaze. It was an excellent example of bravado at its finest, but it ran only surface deep. The nearly defiant way Lex lifted his chin just before he spoke reminded Lionel unfavourably of his son's clubbing days. Years ago, that chin movement would have meant 'You're not paying enough attention to me so I'm about to do something increadibly stupid just so you have to pay huge sums of money to keep our name out of the Inquisitor.' Fortunately, Lex seemed to have have grown out of that habit somewhere around his eighteenth birthday. "They want to see who I conned into being my date."
Frowning at Lex's answer to his demand, Lionel looked around but didn't see anyone impatiently kicking her heels while waiting for Lex to get his admission straightened out. Something wasn't adding up. Had Lex been trying to find an inappropriate guest? A street hooker perhaps, or a married woman, or an heiress of one of Lionel's enemies? Fortunately, that plot seemed to have fallen through. "Apparently, you failed to produce anyone."
Lex shook his head, "No, Dad. You don't understand. I asked Scott and Bradley."
Lex was correct. Lionel didn't understand. "To find you a date?" Surely the boy could handle that much without help, even going after inappropriate women. He'd never had trouble in that department before.
"No. To be my date." Lionel noted the frown that breifly crossed Kent's face, and the way the farmer's son moved marginally closer to Lex and placed a hand on his arm again. He couldn't bring himself to consider what those things meant, though. Couldn't apply the word 'possessive' to the actions. He was still trying to understand what Lex had said, trying to make it make sense, but it wasn't possible. What the words seemed to say couldn't be right. Lex wouldn't do that to himself, not now. LexCorp was in the Fortune 500. He was rising fast and only a few places behind LuthorCorp.
But there he was, stepping closer still to Kent and not protesting as Kent's arms wrapped around his waist. Possessively. There was no mistaking it this time.
It didn't make sense. Lionel didn't understand what Lex was doing. What he was suggesting was social, economic, and political suicide. Yes, the backwash would hurt Lionel, but it would cripple Lex. They may not be on the best of terms right now, but Lex didn't hate Lionel that much.
And Lionel did not hate Lex enough to let him go through with it. "Go back to the penthouse, Lex," he ordered. "You're not going in there like this." Perhaps the boy wasn't as sober as he looked. That was the only explanation Lionel could come up with short of considering the possibility of a psychotic break.
Lex's eyes drifted back to the door then back to him. "It's too late, Dad. I didn't ask George. Word's already spreading that tonight's my coming out party." He straightened, trying to look down at Lionel even though he was an inch shorter, "I'm not going to hide this, Dad."
Lex may have an inexplicable urge to destroy himself, but Lionel had no such death wish, not for himself, and not for his son. "Eduardo, take him back to my penthouse. See that he isn't allowed out."
Lex stiffened in outrage and opened his mouth to argue, but Eduardo was moving in. Kent unstooped his shoulders, proving he was a good four inches taller than Lex and two taller than Eduardo. He shoved Lex behind him and stared down Eduardo, giving every impression that he could toss the security man clear across the plaza should he so choose. Eduardo hesitated, giving the boy the opportunity to intone, "You're not taking Lex anywhere." It was an impressive display of intimidation tactics for a Smallville farmer's son. Any bodyguard would have been envious.
Lex disregarded Eduardo entirely, barely seemed to notice Kent's manhandling, and continued to glower at Lionel. "I am not some little kid for you to order around anymore, Dad." His eyes darted beyond Lionel, back toward the door again. "You can't lock me away like some misbehaving child." His voice was raised a little too loudly for Lionel to be comfortable with, but Lex had always been emotional.
"When you stop acting like a misbehaving child, I will stop treating you like one," Lionel snapped back, his voice sharp but not loud. "Straighten yourself out now before you embarrass yourself."
His eyes flashed in anger. "So I'm being denied entrance to this event because I'm gay?"
Lionel was not stupid. They were on a public street. Anybody could be listening. The way Lex kept looking at the door suggested they already had an audience of some sort. Homophobic discrimination was nearly as damaging as homosexuality. "You're being denied entrance because you are clearly not yourself tonight and I don't want you to do anything you'll regret."
Lex sneered, disbelieving him though this was perhaps the one time that Lionel spoke only the truth, "You're a liar and a hypocrite, Dad. Come on," this to last was spoken to Kent, "We'll have more fun at the penthouse anyway." Kent gave a final glare to Eduardo, a spare one to Lionel, then wrapped a possessive arm around Lex as they walked away.
When Lionel turned to go back into the museum he was dismayed to find the audience that had gathered to watch the confrontation was far larger than a few nosy security guards. He recogized at least one tabloid reporter among them and saw two flashes go off. He expected to see Lex held in Kent's arms on at least one front page tomorrow.
Lex knew they had been followed from the museum, and he stopped Clark in front of doors to the LexCorp building. "Photographer," he muttered under his breath, "Push me against the wall and kiss me. Give him a good shot of my face."
Clark glanced around, probably using x-ray vision to pinpoint the reporter's exact location, then pressed Lex's back against the cool smooth marble of the building. Clark captured his mouth and Lex shortly stopped caring much about the reporter at all. It was somehow different, kissing Clark in front of the world. This was real. It wasn't just a wonderful dream that he'd eventually wake from. The flash of a camera proved that. He associated papparrazzi with nightmares, not Clark.
He kissed Clark back, enjoying the freedom of not needing to keep this a secret any longer. Monday was going to bring a LexCorp stock crisis, but there was nothing to be done about that right now. Time enough to deal with it over the weekend. He'd make a pat PR speech in the morning about his personal affairs being personal. Tonight, though, was for showing the world that he wasn't ashamed of his personal affairs. If he felt like an exhibitionist as the flash went off again while Clark untucked his tuxedo's shirt and slid his hands up against the skin of Lex's torso, it was a good feeling. His own fingers pulled, tugged, and ran through Clark's hair. He loved Clark's hair, the soft texture, the unruly curls. Tonight's gelled tidiness was vastly inferior to its natural state, but Lex would take what he got.
Another flash when Lex threw his head back as Clark bit into his neck and slipped his fingers beneath the waistbands of his trousers and briefs. Oh, God, if that one made it onto the front page, Mrs. Kent was going to tan both their hides. "Clark," he gasped, "Penthouse. Now." A final flash as Clark scooped Lex unceremoniously up into his arms and carried him over the threshhold into the building. He wasn't put down again until they were in the express elevator and rising quickly up to the top floor apartment. He wanted to protest the treatment, but Clark picked up where they had left off outside, and the complaint that he'd be effeminated for that stunt died under the assault.
The elevator chimed and he was lifted up again. This time it wasn't a bad thing because there were no witnesses and it was less than a moment later that he was being deposited on his bed stark naked. Superspeed was a beautiful thing. He just hoped Clark hadn't torn any of their clothes this time. Then Clark was atop him and clothes were really the last thing on his mind.
The Inquisitor ran the last picture on their front page. It was blown up large and covered most of the area above the fold except for the headline and a single column of text along the right hand side. His head was in profile and unmistakable. Clark, fortunately, was only shown from the back as he carried Lex through the doors of the LexCorp building. The headline boldly declared, 'A Blushing Bride? Lex Luthor Bats Both Sides.'
Below the fold, a smaller copy of the biting picture was displayed without any concern for decency. It was a close-up of their heads, Clark's shown mostly as a gelled mop of dark hair and a strong jaw. Lex's face was clear and, by his expression, it looked like he'd been caught having sex outright. Thankfully, his collar was, just barely, in the picture, so there was at least some indication that he was still clothed. He only wanted a minor scandal about this.
He could feel eyes on him as he walked through the lobby and halls of LexCorp on his way up to his office. The red mark on his neck from where Clark had been caught marking what was his for jounalistic posterity felt like it had a neon sign drawing everyone's attention to it. He was also certain that there must be a sign hanging around his neck announcing, 'I'm Homosexual!' to anyone who hadn't already read the Inquistor's article.
And since when did so many people in his company work on Saturdays anyway?
In his office, the PR people were already waiting and looking distinctly unhappy with him. The Inquisitor's article was laid out on his desk, unfolded, so the full impact of the entire front page could be seen. The Daily Planet's Society section was also there, a picture of him and Clark walking away from the museum with Clark's arm around Lex's waist taking up the lead spot on the section's front page. That one's headline read, 'Lex Luthor and Date Turned Away.'
"It was dark and these guys used flashes," Henry Goldman, his assistant PR Director, accused. "You must have seen these get taken. Why didn't you or your father get gag orders out?"
Lex looked up from skimming the text of the Daily Planet article, which mostly covered the confrontation outside the museum. "I did gag them," he stated calmly. He tapped the 'and Date' part of the Daily Planet headline. "Neither paper used my date's name or printed his face." Not that either had Clark's name to print, and Lex would like keep it that way, at least at first.
The lead PR man, Robert Ferrier, rubbed at his temples. "Please tell me he's not married."
Lex shook his head. "Nothing like that. He's unmarried and of age. The only thing illicit is our common gender. I just don't want him getting stalked."
Goldman frowned, watching Lex with narrowed eyes. "This was deliberate on your part. Why?"
Lex stood and walked to the window, looking out over Metropolis. "We've been together since November." He paused, giving them the time to do the arithmetic, to determine the relationship was in its fifth month. Both PR men were perfectly well aware that most of his attempts at dating ended badly and quickly, usually with two weeks. One month on the outside, if there were ulterior motives involved.
Five months was unprecedented. Only Helen had come close, and she'd left after three to pursue an opportunity at John Hopkins. Lex turned away from the window to look at the two men. "It's serious. We're talking about adopting a kid as early as sometime this year. This," he waved at the newspapers on his desk, "is preliminary to announcing our intent to become life partners." Clark and he had talked about that last night and again that morning. They'd worked out a plan. He met each of his employees' eyes in turn. "This isn't a phase. It's not going to pass. From now on, I'm monogamously gay, and Metropolis had best get used to it. If you can't handle that, the door is right over there."
Neither took him up on the offer, and within an hour, they had worked out statement to give the press. They left out the parts about life partnering and children, not wanting to shock Kansas too badly all at once, but the gist of what he'd told Ferrier and Goldman held true. He was gay, and unafraid to say so. He was in a committed relationship with another man. He had been for some time and felt the relationship was now strong enough to expose to the public. If you had a problem with it, you could go screw yourself.
The last part, Ferrier made him word differently.
After the speech, the floor had been opened for questions. The number and variety were astounding, ranging from the factual ("What is the name of your boyfriend?") to the crude ("How long have you taken it in the backdoor?") to the practical ("Do you think this will hurt LexCorp?"). And just about everything in between. "Were all the women just for show?" "How did you meet?" "Why come out now?" "What does he do for a living?"
Lex held up his hands, waiting for them to quiet again before picking a few of his favourites. "My suitor and I have decided not to reveal his name immediately. We will release that information when we deem his residence secure for his increased level of public scrutiny. As for LexCorp, I do expect a small dip in stock prices. However, I feel confident that the business community will realize that my personal life is just that. Personal. My sexuality has no bearing on how I do business. LexCorp has proven itself a strong, stable, and innovative company and that will not change."
"Mr. Luthor!" Lex stopped talking as a woman wearing a badge from the Daily Planet called out his name. He'd taken her out once. No, twice. Slept with her both times. What was her name? "Can't you give us a name? We can't exactly call this guy 'Lex Luthor's Mysterious Suitor' all the time."
Ah, right, that was it. Cat. He leaned forward a little bit toward the mike, a genuine smirk of amusement breaking through his public face as he drawled, "Actually, that doesn't sound too bad, Ms. Grant. You must admit, he rather defines 'tall, dark, and handsome.'"
She snorted. "Careful, Luthor," she taunted, her complete lack of propriety without crossing the line into rudeness reminded him of why he'd liked her enough to date more than once. "I might mistake you for having a streak of romantacism."
Perhaps he should have stopped there and gone on to another question, either denying that possibility outright, or implying the denial by bringing up stock prices again. Under normal circumstances he would have. Under normal circumstances he was not recently outed, free to say or do whatever he pleased about his anonymous boyfriend so long as he was okay with Clark hearing it eventually. Under normal circumstances, he wasn't a little over a week pregnant with all kinds of foreign hormones flooding his system. Under normal circumstances, he ran his press conferences more professionally as he was generally making statements about LexCorp rather than himself; he wouldn't have been bantering with one of the reporters in the first place.
Whatever the cause, what he actually said was, "I think my reputation's safe so long as you don't start using words like 'courtship' and 'wooing', Ms. Grant."
He should have known she'd take that as a challenge. Cat Grant was on the society beat in first place because she couldn't keep her pen to herself. As far as his lawyers could make out, she had written two accounts of the press conference for the newly appointed Editor-in-Chief Perry White. One carried the Don't-Fuck-With-Me tone he'd wanted to convey. The other was all but a fantasy story, with his name replacing the beautiful princess's. And yet it hit all the same major points as the more serious factual one, albeit mixed in with such things as white steeds (because Mysterious Suitor was, of course, a knight in shining armor) and evil kings (though, to be fair, she'd cast Lionel in that role and it really was quite appopriate). White printed both articles (with a disclaimer on the second stating it was a parody). The paper had even managed to obtain the rights to print the Lex-carried-over-the-threshold picture from the Inquisitor alongside 'The Courtship of Lex Luthor' by Cat Grant.
Lex was seriously torn between suing the Planet and framing the Society front page. His PR people advised suing would only add to the bad publicity about him while, if they were lucky, doing nothing would show Lex 'had a sense of humor'. However, they also cautioned that doing nothing would probably reinforce the image of Lex as a 'fair maiden'. The air quotes as Ferrier said that were practically audible. Lex decided to suck it up and accept that his masculinity was going to suffer anyway and he may as well not get on the Planet's bad side.
He was pretty sure his father was torn between suing the Planet and pretending the second version didn't exist. He honestly didn't know why the man opted for the latter. Lex's best guess was that Lionel was waiting for him to clean up his own mess.
Clark found it hilarious.
When Wall Street opened on Monday, Luthorcorp initially lost a point while LexCorp dropped three. LexCorp recovered half a point after lunch, likely in response to buyers picking up stock at the undervalued price, then both companies held steady. Lex wasn't worried about it. He could get two and half points back when he signed that contract with ElectroTech next Thursday.